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There’s a furniture store in Houston which promises to deliver your new sofa or bed the same day you buy it. It’s been a key part of this business for years, and TV spots, radio ads, and billboards with the company name and the word “TODAY” lure customers by the hundreds. The same concept can work for launching a career in acting, I believe.
Let’s get a little reality check first. The acting you start today won’t pay your bills tomorrow. But waiting to do it won’t do anything for you. So let’s look at 10 ways to take a first step right now.
1. READ AN ACTING BOOK
There’s no shortage of helpful books, including Sanford Meisner on Acting, to crack open today. You can also start with a successful actor’s biography or autobiography, such as The Ragman’s Son by Kirk Douglas. While these types of books may not address technique, they usually share insight into the actor’s journey.
2. SHADOW AN ACTOR
This may be one of the best ways to learn a lot fast. Offer to drive an actor friend to an audition and ask questions along the way. Keep it reasonable and let your actor pal focus when necessary. If it’s an out-of-town trip, serving as the driver will give you an opportunity to have a much more comprehensive conversation about the opportunities and hazards that appear in this business.
3. ASK FRIENDS TO DESCRIBE YOU
Posting your request on Facebook may invite some sarcastic so instead send a private message or email or text to your closest friends and family members. Ask them to describe you using 5-10 words that immediately come to mind. This feedback can be helpful for raising self-awareness about how you appear to others and help narrow your focus on the types of roles you could be pursuing.
4. FIND A MONOLOGUE OR TWO
A good monologue is an asset so start looking for one today. It doesn’t need to be a recognizable one from the latest Oscar-nominated films. But here’s the challenge: make sure it’s something the average person can “buy” from you. If you’re a 16 year-old girl, grabbing a monologue originally done by Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln is not a suitable choice.
5. WATCH A FILM OR TV SHOW
This is not your typical chill out on the couch time. Try watching an entire episode of a show and find a role you can see yourself playing. At this point that role shouldn’t be one of the stars of the show. If it’s CSI, you should be looking closely at the background actors, someone with a line or two at most, or even the person playing the victim.
6. EVALUATE YOUR WARDROBE
Thanks to my wardrobe options, I can show up to an audition as a blue-collar worker, a farmer, a cop, a lawyer and much more. I also shop specifically for solid colors and no logos so I have more options for auditions and acting gigs. Look at what you have and get a sense of what roles you could audition for today based on what’s already in your closet.
7. LIST YOUR SKILLS
A couple of years ago a video shoot put me on a tractor in a rural part of Texas. Although I grew up around farms and spent a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm in Lisbon, NY, driving a tractor was not part of my experience. I needed on set training to handle the role. I can drive a stick shift car or truck. I can also swim and skate, but I wouldn’t attempt to convincingly play a guitar. You would be surprised at how many times your existing skills (sports, language, music, etc.) can help you either get the audition or book the job.
8. CONTACT AN ACTING TEACHER
Some teachers offer group classes only and some offer group and private sessions. Some teachers also continue to act and others only teach. You can ask to audit a class, and if you’re in luck, maybe the next class will take place tonight.
9. START LOOKING AT CASTINGS
New and inexperienced actors ask me where I hear about auditions. The answer is virtually everywhere, but not really. Agents, select sites, Facebook posts and word-of-mouth tend to be primary sources. For the beginner, start looking at castings like a detective looking for clues. Do you need to submit a headshot/resume? What role(s) might be suitable for you? Does it pay?
10. MAKE A BUDGET
Maintaining a career as an actor costs money and many new actors are surprised by how much they spend before any “returns” come in. So based on your current income, make a plan to afford all the expenses that are tied to acting, including printer ink, fuel, parking fees, headshots and so much more. You may have to give up some regular indulgences but you don’t want to end up sleeping on a friend’s couch because you can’t pay your rent after weeks of auditions with no bookings.